Ristorante Frescobaldi's Florentine wine success set to go global

Francesca Washtell
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Ristorante Frescobaldi is located in Mayfair (Source: Greg Sigston/City AM)

There are many foodies who would argue London has the most competitive restaurant scene in the world.

The number of food-led sites in the capital has increased by almost a fifth over the last five years alone, according to figures from Market Growth Monitor, leaving new restaurants and pop-up organisers vying for competition more than ever before.

Bearing this in mind, it might be difficult to see at first what could attract someone away from a comfortable career in private equity into such a dog-eat-dog arena.

For former Lehman Brothers and private equity specialist Sanjay Nandi, it seems it was precisely the level of comfort, and ensuing boredom, which provided the impetus to switch tracks.

Read more: Other cities are starting to rival London's eating and drinking out scene

At this stage, Nandi is probably glad he did. To jump ship from private equity, he founded The Good Food Society with business partner and Turkish serial restaurateur Levent Buyukugur in 2013.

Their first restaurant, Ristorante Frescobaldi in Mayfair, has been so successful since it was opened in late 2014 that another 10 restaurants are being planned in key global cities under the brand.

The selling point of the restaurant and wine bar has been its partnership with the 800-year-old Florentine wine dynasty Frescobaldi – a favourite of both Michelangelo and Henry VIII.

The restaurant sells around 70 per cent Frescobaldi wines – Buyukugur put his foot down about a 100 per cent wine partnership. “You just can’t do that in London,” he said.

Sanjay Nandi (left) and Levent Buyukugur founded The Good Food Society in 2013 (Source: Greg Sigston/City AM)

Before launching The Good Food Society, Nandi was a vice president at private equity group Trilantic Capital, where he remains an operating partner, which was set up by a number of former Lehman Brothers colleagues.

Read more: Britain is now the "beating heart" of the global wine trade

Life at board level, he said, was “slightly superficial”. “Buying and selling companies… is challenging and consuming, but not fulfilling. You’re managing through reports and numbers, whereas entrepreneurs are at the front, dealing with the real-life issues head-on, living and breathing the company everyday rather than being at board meetings.”

Nandi worked with Buyukugur during his time with Lehman’s private equity team, when the Turkish entrepreneur was the head of Istanbul Doors, one of the best-performing restaurant groups in Turkey.

The pair have a £25m revenue target for The Good Food Society by 2020, following turnover of £3m last year and the opening of their second restaurant, Turkish-themed Yosma, last month.

Read more: Casual dining and pub grub drive new restaurant and bar openings

When speaking to former colleagues, many seem to envy Nandi’s career shake-up, though none have as yet made a similar move. “A lot of people say ‘I wish I had, but I’m glad you have’, it’s like they live vicariously through me.”

Though it wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste, the labour intensive nature of the industry is part of its appeal to Nandi as is the level of personal commitment that is required.

“It’s partly your money,” Nandi said, “So you care about it all.”